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Sulfate reducers and related organisms which had previously been found to reduce Fe(III) with H2 or organic electron donors oxidized S0 to sulfate when Mn(IV) was provided as an electron acceptor. Organisms catalyzing this reaction in washed cell suspensions included Desulfovibrio desulfuricans, Desulfomicrobium baculatum. Desulfobacterium autotrophicum, Desulfuromonas acetoxidans, and Geobacter metallireducens. These organisms produced little or no sulfate from S0 with Fe(III) as a potential electron acceptor or in the absence of an electron acceptor. In detailed studies with Desulfovibrio desulfuricans, the stoichiometry of sulfate and Mn(II) production was consistent with the reaction S0 + 3 MnO2 + 4H+ ???SO42- + 3Mn(II) + 2H2O. None of the organisms evaluated could be grown with S0 as the sole electron donor and Mn(IV) as the electron acceptor. In contrast to the other sulfate reducers evaluated, Desulfobulbus propionicus produced sulfate from S0 in the absence of an electron acceptor and Fe(III) oxide stimulated sulfate production. Sulfide also accumulated in the absence of Mn(IV) or Fe(III). The stoichiometry of sulfate and sulfide production indicated that Desulfobulbus propionicus disproportionates S0 as follows: 4S0 + 4H2O???SO42- + 3HS- + 5 H+. Growth of Desulfobulbus propionicus with S0 as the electron donor and Fe(III) as a sulfide sink and/or electron acceptor was very slow. The S0 oxidation coupled to Mn(IV) reduction described here provides a potential explanation for the Mn(IV)-dependent sulfate production that previous studies have observed in anoxic marine sediments. Desulfobulbus propionicus is the first example of a pure culture known to disproportionate S0.
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Novel processes for anaerobic sulfate production from elemental sulfur by sulfate-reducing bacteria